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Trip Report-The Anniversary Trip (long)

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Trip Report-Anniversary
For our 25th Anniversary we decided to be really self indulgent and spend a week in Paris. My DH said it was the honeymoon we should have had but we were too broke then.

We flew out of Boston on Sat Jun 23. We still haven't got the knack of picking good seats. These had the advantage of being aisle/window with no one beside or behind us. Unfortunately we were next to the toilets. Also as usual the woman in front of me claimed her seat wouldn't come upright until we landed. Why are people so rude?

As we approached the time of landing my DH told me to put down my book. Then he gave me a diamond ring for my anniversary gift. He hadn’t given me one when we got engaged since as I told you we were broke when we got married! It was so sweet.

Other than the woman who got up out of her seat during landing it was an uneventful flight. We landed at 6am and the terminal was packed. Sometimes I feel sorry for the French to be inundated with all these foreigners. Since we live in a resort area we understand the two sides of an economy based upon tourism.

When we finally picked up our luggage, which had been riding the carousel for who knows how long, we headed for the RER. We bought carnets for the trip into Paris and got my DH un café. I have learned to keep some Euros for that and at least some coins for the toilettes. The trip on the RER was uneventful. Usually we take the AirFrance buses but since we had a small rolling bag each we figured 'pas de probleme'. The one previous time we took the Metro it seemed to be a nightmare of stairs with a heavy cumbersome bag.

We made it to our hotel, Relais St Germain (I told you we were being self indulgent!) and left the bags. As is our custom we headed to the Marche Biologique on Blvd Raspail. We each got a gallette and agreed that the recipe for them in the new cookbook by Patricia Wells were just wrong! We also bought some apricots and cheese, St. Marcellin.

We returned to the hotel and our room was ready. This is where I realize that after 25 years of marriage I don't understand men especially my DH. He had been suffering with allergies before we left home. Did he bring his allergy medication? No, he was feeling miserable so we rested in the room for a couple of hours.

Afterwards we went to the Metro and bought Carte Oranges and a packet of Carnets. One of the most helpful things that we have acquired (and I am sure I read about it on Fodors) is the Metro program for my Axim (a Dell PDA). You select the starting point and the ending point and it tells you how to get there. It approximates the amount of time the trip will take and how many stops on each leg of the trip. It has helped a lot with taking buses which I like because it allows you to see what is around you but isn’t the best in terms of time. So we took the Metro to the Cité and walked down to Berthillon. A classic Framboise & Chocolate Noire for me and café & mure for him. We saw an amateur rolller blade rally take off from in front of the Institute de Arab??. We planned to watch the Friday night rolller bladers but we forgot.

That evening went Pramil in the 3rd for dinner. It was a lovely meal on a quiet evening for the restaurant so we got to chat with the chef. Of course his English was much better than our French. As former restaurateurs it was interesting to discuss philosophy. The bonus was discovering one of the neat Metro stations- Arts & Métier-looks like the inside of a sub with port holes with displays from the Museum.

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    Monday- One of the plans for the week was to enjoy Paris outdoors since recently we have visited in March. It would have been better if the weather had cooperated. It was cool, overcast and rainy most of the week except for Monday which was all of the above as well as sunny and warm. So we went out to Parc de la Villette and wandered through the park. We walked from the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie museum to the Musée de la Musique which of course was closed on Monday. One thing we saw that we were curious about was in the Dunes section, there were poles that seemed to have places for pedals to attach, a referees chair and a scoreboard. What the heck is that all about? After wandering around the Parc for a couple of hours we took the Metro to the Bastille stop and wandered over to see what the Place des Vosges looks like in the summer. Not very different but how could it look more elegant? We then found our way to rue des Rosier for falafel pockets from L' As du Falafel. We walked up to BHV to look for the number tile for our house but as luck would have it they were out of stock of the border pieces. Ah, well next time. In front of the Hotel de Ville they have set up an exhibition about gardens of the future. There were thousands of plans and benches to sit on. One of the things we love about France is that there are always flowers everywhere. Even when we are there in March they have started to plant in the Jardin de Luxembourg and some people already have put flowers in their window boxes. That night we ate at Au Fils des Saison in the 3rd (same Metro stop as the previous evening). This was one time it poured and we were lucky we had picked up an umbrella from the hotel on the way out the door. It would have been helpful if the restaurant had a sign on it but luckily I had brought the address.

    Tuesday- This was the nastiest day all week and our anniversary. We decided to finally do a Passages tour in the 1st starting with Galerie Vivienne (4 rue des Petits-Champs M-Bourse) then Galerie Colbert (6 rue Vivienne) and Passage Choiseul (23 rue St-Augustin). The difference between the three was interesting. One had all shops and lunch places for local workers and another one was renovated by the Bibliothèque Nationale and has an entrance to the classy Grand Colbert café. It was interesting and kept us out of the rain. We then did some shopping and found our way to the Jeu de Paume across from the Orangerie but the exhibit seemed to outré to us. We had lunch at the hotel at Le Comptoir. The funny thing was that after lunch I stopped in the room for a minute and there were flowers there. When I returned to my husband I asked about them and he denied knowledge of them. After our stroll and we entered the room there was still flowers there but a different arrangement. It was strange. My parents had arranged for the flowers and champagne for our anniversary. Apparently the flowers hadn’t arrived so they put some other ones there and then replaced them with ours. We had dinner at Le Comptoir also. They served us champagne when we sat down and congratulated us on our anniversary. We had a very nice dinner and a chat with the couple who sat next to us. She is an American married to a Frenchman-lucky woman!

    Wednesday- We went out to the Château de Vincennes in the morning. The medieval keep was great as were the grounds. The one disappointment was that the chapel-Sainte Chappelle was under renovation. I am curious as to how it compares to the other Sainte Chappelle. Since we had spent hours in the Château and the weather looked iffy we skipped the Bois de Vincennes. I can’t remember what we did for the remainder of the day. Dinner that night was at Spring which is pretty much a one man operation with an American chef preparing the meal for 17 in an open kitchen. We had a chance to talk to the chef, Daniel Rose, after the meal.

    Thursday-This was the highlight of the trip. We dragged ourselves out of bed to get to Gare St Lazare for the 8:15 train to Vernon for a visit to Giverny. The trip wasn’t that long and we arrived in time to stand in line for the bus with all the other people who thought they would beat the crowds. Maybe we did but it seemed that there were a lot of people there. The grounds were gorgeous as was the pond with the water lilies which were just starting to bloom. We were lucky enough to be standing in Monet’s bedroom when the skies opened. By the time we had finished the tour of the house it had stopped raining. We walked down the street and had lunch at the Antiente Hotel Baudy. Unfortunately we didn’t get time to tour the rose gardens or the American Impressionist museum (except to stop in, ask about the train schedule and buy a neat black apron with poppies on it!). We took the 4pm train back and that made for a full day. That night we ate at the hotel again.

    Friday-The time was flying and I realize we wouldn’t see half of what I wanted especially since I had come down with a sinus cold. So we slept in and had breakfast delivered to our room at 11am. What decadence! Today we had planned to go to the Musée Marmottan and visit the Parc de Bagatelles for the roses. Almost every time we leave Paris my DH asks what that glassed topped building was. Today he finally got to see the Grande Palais. It had a weird exhibit of post modern art which consisted of topped buildings. Strange but I planted myself on a bench while he took pictures to his heart’s content. Afterwards we went across to street to the Petit Palais which was also beautiful. The only problem in my mind was that the part of the exhibit that described the renovation of the building was totally in French. I found the same with the description of the archeological find that held up the reopening of the Orangerie. I guess the French don’t think anyone would be interested. Then we hit the shops looking for those number tiles. Since it was the semi annual sale week my DH said that it appeared that Paris was in a shopping frenzy. I bought some napkins that matched a table cloth that we bought in Provence and found a china pattern I liked but that was it. We tried to get back to Berthillon that day but the bus that was suppose to go there never came. We took the Metro to the Pyrénées station and walked part way down the Belleville hill for dinner at Le Baratin. Afterwards we walked the rest of the way down the hill to the Belleville Metro stop for the trip back to the hotel.

    Saturday- This day I was really dragging. We wandered up to the Jardin du Luxembourg and admired the flowers. Also we were fascinated by the verger (orchard) there with many espaliered apple trees. We assumed that the fruit that had bags over them was to protect them from birds. What I was surprised at was the ripeness of the fruit for the end of June. We went back to the hotel for lunch and then wandered over to the Cité for a last Berthillon-caramel and red peach for me and amazing pineapple and framboise mure for my DH. Many streets were closed for a Gay Pride rally which seemed to encompass the whole city. It was nice to not have to worry about traffic. Dinner was at Les Papilles for the early sitting then back to the hotel to back.

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    Sunday-We had arranged for breakfast to be delivered at 8AM. Then we could finish packing without taking time out to go down for breakfast. We were fairly efficient so we decided to make sandwiches of the cheese, ham and bread from the breakfast tray and hop the Metro for one last galette at the Boulevard Raspail market. Then on the way back a stop at Gerard Mulot for a slice of quiche and a little cake for the trip home. We had planned to take the RER back to the airport but the gentleman at the desk in the hotel said it had been erratic lately. So we resorted to our usual and took a cab to Charles-de-Gaulle Etoile to catch the AirFrance bus. When we got there and had unloaded our bags we discovered that the bus was on strike. It seemed too complicated to take the RER from there so we took a cab and held our breath that we had enough Euros to pay for it. Our choice of seats on the way home was much better since we were in the beginning of the section with no one in front of us. The only concern was when we realize there was a baby across the aisle from us but she was no problem.

    The only problem we had with customs was slight. As we went through passport control the officer asked if we brought back any alcohol. Of course we couldn’t agree on the number of bottle we brought back. That got our card marked with a big red circled 2. So when we picked up the luggage we were directed to the ‘something to declare’ line. It was a little intimidating since the sign on the front of the counter detail the penalties for assaulting the officer. Anyway after we detailed our haul-3 bottles of champagne, 2 bottles of Reisling, 2 bottles of liqueurs, a bottle of Armagnac and one of Scotch –we were allowed to leave. My DH asked the officer how much we could bring back and was told it depended upon the alcohol content and there was an arcane IRS schedule which outlined the duties. It is something to research on the web in the future.

    Restaurants:

    Sunday- It is difficult night to dine out in Paris which seems so strange to our American sensibilities. In past years we have relied upon L’Ardoise in the 1st which is very good. It was a time for a change though and we were very pleased to have found Pramil. It is a small chef owned bistro in the 3rd. It was a slow night which the chef said was usual. The menu was 29€ for Entrée, Plat et Dessert.

    Entrées- Omelette aux asperges sauvages (Wild Asparagus Omelet)
    Foie gras mi-cuit avec oreille de porc (A foie gras terrine with pork ears in a sweet sour sauce) with a 3€ supplement

    Plat-Gigot de Sept Heures (lamb cooked for seven hours served with braised vegetables)
    Onglet de veau poêlé aux girolles et purée à l’huile d’olive (veal steak with sautéed mushrooms and potato puree

    Dessert- Délice au chocolat tiède aux zestes d’orange confits (warm chocolate cake with orange zest)
    Figues Blanches fraîches avec glace au poivre de Sichuan (fresh white figs with Sichuan peppercorn ice cream)

    We spent more on wine than we did on dinner which was par for the course. We had a wonderful Riesling to start (Vendanges Tardives Riesling 1997 Domaine Julien Meyur) and a Pommard 2005 Les Cras with the plats. We had a lovely meal at Pramil and were lucky enough to talk to the chef afterwards.
    Pramil Restarurant 30 rue Gay-Lussac 01 43 25 20 79 M- Arts & Métier

    Monday- We traveled back to the 3rd to go to Au Fil des Saisons. It was a rainy evening and we were lucky we brought along the address because there was no sign on the place. While we were eating the waiter put the menu board in the window which has the name on it. I don’t remember what the pre fixe was here but dinner including the wine was 103€.

    Entrées-Ravioli avec crème du voillaile et magret fumet (ravioli with a reduced chicken stock and cream sauce with smoked duck breast)
    Foie gras de canard with lentils and apples (different with the sautéed foie gras atop a bed of lentils and apples in a broth-very good)

    Wine-Saint Veran 2001 Les Sablons Domaine Jean-Luc Tissier

    Plats- Entrecote (steak)
    Magret of duck with spices of Colombo (the waiter said the spices would be like a curry but it wasn’t very assertive-yummy though)

    Wine-Cahors Chateau Seret Monpezat 2002

    Dessert- Sautee of bananas, pineapple and apricot with rum
    Millefeuille de Framboise et rhubarbe

    Au Fil des Saisons- 6 rue des Fontaines du Temple 01 42 74 16 60 M- Arts & Métier

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    Tuesday- This was our anniversary and we chose to stay and eat at the hotel. This was our third stay at the Relais since the new ownership and we have become known in the restaurant. It made for a very nice evening sort of among friends. The menu at le Comptoir is a 5 course fixed menu that they serve to everyone. It is 45€ and well worth it. We have never been disappointed.

    First course- Crémeux d’œuf de poule, parmesan, jambon de Bayonne, Asperge verte et girolles de France (A custard with parmesan topped with the ham, asparagus and mushrooms)

    Filet de rouget de méditerranée juste rôti Vinaigrette de calamars a l’encre Jeune poireau (a filet of red mullet which is a white fish with a vinaigrette of squid ink garnished with several rounds of squid and young leeks-it turned everyone’s lips black)

    Tranche de gigot d’agneau de lait béarnais rôti Pomme ratte en purée à l’olive noire, jus pistou (Slice of roast lamb on a bed of pureed potatoes with a basil sauce)

    Plateau de fromage affiné par la maison Boursault (a wonderful cheese platter that they just sit on your table and you can eat to your heart’s content)

    Coupe de gelée a la verveine et fruits rouges Lait de vache cuit à la cardamome (a verbena jelly with red fruits with a cardamon flavored baked cream)

    Le bonbon du fondeur en chocolat Jacques Genin- the most amazing mango caramels!

    We were served champagne when we were seated and congratulated by Livia the waitress. We drank a Côte du Rhone with dinner.

    This was a very pleasant evening. Le Comptoir is tiny so you sit near your neighbor. Next to us was an American woman married to a Frenchman so we chatted with them. It was fun.

    Wednesday- I was a little worried about this reservation. Spring is a small (16-17) seat restaurant run by an American. It is also a fixed menu served to everyone at the same time. We had heard wonderful things about it but one of the last things we read wasn’t that good. It was fabulous though and we had a great time. The kitchen is open so you can see the chef, Daniel Rose, make and serve your dinner. If you are very interested in watching I would suggest you ask for what is known as ‘the ledge’ table. Also since it is very small please be considerate if you can’t make the reservation call and cancel. The menu is 28.50€

    First course-Velouté of carrot with a garnish of fresh mint, paprika and a piece of toast with foie gras

    Second course- Rouget on a bed of diced cucumbers, lardons of bacon and olives in vinaigrette with a side salad of a variety of tomatoes

    Plat- Pintade (guinea hen) with artichoke hearts, peaches and chips of potato

    Dessert- A scoop of chocolate fondant, raspberries with a cantaloupe sauce, and a small spoon of lime curd with sugar toasted pistachios

    Wine- Quincy Domaine Mardon 2005 Gerwurztraiminer Aimé Stechtz 2005
    Coteaux de Aix en Provence Domaine de la Brillane (Rupert Birch) 2006

    Don’t worry if this menu doesn’t interest you. Each meal is a different menu and even each dish will change with the chef’s whim. He admitted to us that he had been planning on using the peaches with the dessert but at the last minute put it into the pintade sauce. It was wonderful.

    Spring- 28 rue de la Tour d’Auvergne 01 45 96 05 72 Metro-Pigalle

    Thursday- Since we got up very early in the morning to go to Giverny we changed our reservation for this evening to eat in the hotel. When we arrived the chef said the ‘votre table’ was waiting.

    The menu only changed in the first course and dessert. Everything else was the same.

    First Course- Jus de tomate cœur de bœuf rafraîchi, homard Canadien, Crudités de légumes d’été Chilled cubes of vegetables and lobster in a tomato broth (The first course came up out of the basement kitchen in silver soup bowls with the vegetables and lobster in it. There were little cocktail shakers with the tomato juice/soup in it. The chef came by and shook them vigorously. It was funny but a wonderful dish)

    Dessert- Crémeux de riz caramélisé, amandes grilles Fruit rouges de France (a caramelized rice pudding with almonds and red fruits)

    Wine-we drank a Volnay this evening but that is all I know about the wine.

    Friday- I am not sure how I heard about Le Baratin but I had heard it was a place that people don’t want to become known. It is also a small place which was full. It also was one of the few places that turned the tables. When we left at 10:30 people were waiting to be seated. The menu is written on a chalk board. Entrées were around 12€ and plats were around 20 €. Everything we saw go by looked wonderful. It isn’t a fancy place-more a down home kind of restaurant with a resident cat twining around your legs

    Entrées-Artichaut poivrade en ragoût au citron (artichoke hearts in a lemon sauce)
    Tartare de thon à la cerise (tuna tartare with fresh cherries-I have cherries in the fridge to try and recreate this dish.)

    Plats- Palette de porc rôti aux épices et légumes sauté (pork shoulder roasted with spices and served with sautéed vegetables-very good)
    Guinea hen de Rouen roasted with mushrooms and sour cherries

    Desserts- Marc de bois avec double crème (a kind of wild strawberry with a sour cream)
    Fresh apricots poached in a vanilla syrup-fabulous!!

    Wine- Domaine Gramenon Côtes-du-Rhone 2005

    Le Baratin 3 rue Jouye Rouve 01 43 49 39 70 Metro-Pyrénées or Belleville (I had heard that this place was halfway up Belleville hill. So we took the metro to Pyrénées and walked down the hill to dinner and then after dinner walked the rest of the way down the hill to the Belleville stop.)

    Saturday- A few of the places we were interested in trying were closed on Saturday so we tried Les Papilles. It is a wine store which serves a fixed menu dinner. It was good but not a favorite of ours. It might have been the menu or just that we were sad to be leaving Paris the next day. Also we thought that Spring was much better for the same price.

    Entrée- Cold cucumber gazpacho- croutons, red onions, bacon, cucumber and goat cheese with a cucumber cream

    Plat- Shoulder of Lamb Provençal- It came to the table in a little casserole which was still boiling when the waitress opened it. The chef had thrown in some snow peas just before it was served because they were vivid green and still crunchy. It was too bad that it had too much oil in it.

    Cheese course- a small, blue-veined wedge of artisanal Fourme d'Ambert cheese from the Auvergne was brought to the table with a poached prune dipped in sesame seeds. It was fine for me but my husband doesn’t like blue cheese.

    Dessert- A lemon cream- a lemon mousse topped with a lemon gelatin

    Wine- Since this is a wine store you get to pick your wine off the shelf and then pay a 6€ corkage fee. Unfortunately they don’t carry any half bottles or have wines by the glass. We tried a wine my husband hadn’t heard of which is unusual. Faugéres Domaine Leon Barral 2004

    I think the pre fixe cost was 28.50€ each and the total bill was 89€

    Les Pailles- 30 rue Gay-Lussac Metro-Luxembourg

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    What a nice way to spend your anniversary and thank you for the great restaurant info. I've also heard that Spring is very good, it's on my list, and I'll be adding the other restaurants you chose as well.

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    hi, AGM,

    great to read your report - what lovely memories you will have.

    thanks for taking the trouble to remember the menus in such detail - how did you make your choices?

    Your screen name brought back memories for me as we spent our DD's 1st birthday on cape cod. it didn't sem that touristy to us then [19 years ago or so]. Has it changed that much? - i do hope not.

    regards, ann

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    Thanks for your responses. I do a lot of research on the web. This time since we were doing this on the fly (usually we save for a year before going) I was looking for bistros in the 30 euro range. Egullet (http://forums.egullet.org) is a really good source since I think a lot of the posters there are lucky enough to live in Paris. I also liked the Paris update (http://www.paris-update.com/restaurants/restaurants_home.htm) reviews by Richard Hesse. Since I can't go to Paris as much as I want reading about it on the web is the next best thing. Sharing it here on Fodors is a way to keep the memories alive too.

    Ann-I am afraid that the Cape won't be the same place you visited for your DD's 1st birthday. But then she isn't the same either and I am sure for the better. It is still a lovely place and we are fortunate to live here.

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    What a wonderful anniversary trip! And a diamond too! I'm glad you had such a good time in spite of less than perfect weather.

    Thanks for the restaurant info. I'm saving it for a future trip :)

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    Thanks AGM - I really like your format with the detailed restaurant information at the end. I think I'll try Spring. That does sound really delicious.

    This summer was our 25th anniversary too! Congratulations!

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